The Baltimore Ravens ran their winning streak to 10 consecutive games and 11 straight within the division, defeating the Cleveland Browns 25-15 on Sunday afternoon.
Cleveland hung in all afternoon and at one point led 15-14 over the Ravens late in the 4th quarter.
The tone appeared to be set early as the Ravens jumped out 14-0 on their first two drives. Baltimore later went six consecutive drives without a first down before Joe Flacco led the offense on a nine play, 81 yard drive, finding Torrey Smith for a 19-yard touchdown and then a two-point conversion by Anquan Boldin to give the team a seven point lead with just over 4:00 minutes left in the game.
Joe started strong completing his first 10 passes, finishing 15-for-24, 153 yards and a touchdown. For a good portion of the game however, Cleveland’s defense put the locks on Flacco and the passing game.
Flacco at certain points showed accuracy and then, some not-so-good accuracy. But when it mattered most, he led the team on an 81-yard drive finding Torrey Smith for the winning score. Another positive was no turnovers from Flacco which helped because the Browns hung around all afternoon.
Running Backs: A
The running duo of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and the crushing blocks of Vonta Leach were huge keys to the Ravens winning this game.
The team committed to Rice early, giving him the rock 25 times and he ran hard scoring the Ravens first touchdown of the day. Bernard Pierce chipped in with 26 yards and his first career touchdown on seven carries. Pierce showed some nice acceleration and a good change up from Rice.
It seemed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used more stretch plays with Rice which were effective in the 1st half, then punished the Cleveland defense in the 2nd half running between tackles.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-
Anquan Boldin led the Ravens with five catches on 57 yards, mostly handling the underneath and intermediate routes. Torrey Smith showed great control, catching the football on one long gain and then hauling in the game-winning touchdown on another.
Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson combined to catch four balls for 44 yards. They were used at times to help stay in on pass blocking.
Offensive Line: B-
This unit had Cleveland’s defensive line battling them all afternoon and trying to get under their skin, but mostly the line blocked well for Flacco (allowing only one sack) and opening up some holes in the trenches for Ray Rice. This was a better performance that we’ve seen from this group in the last few contests.
Defensive Line: C-
This unit picked up the pace, but playing the Cleveland Browns, that’s an easy thing to do. Cleveland’s quarterback Brandon Weeden was only sacked once but he faced a lot of pressure up front by the Ravens line.
But they in part allowed Cleveland running back Trent Richardson to run wild yet again, rushing for 105 yards. The Ravens desperately need a healthy Haloti Ngata to help clog up the running lanes.
As mentioned just before this, Trent Richardson ran for over 100 yards against the Ravens defense, which he accomplished in both games this season. Dannell Ellerbe seems to be settling in and getting on a good roll, finishing with four tackles and a sack.
Terrell Suggs looked even more fresh than he did two weeks ago. Suggs caused some havoc on the edges, forcing Weeden into some poor decisions. Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger finished with five tackles collectively but they played better in passing situations. This unit helped out big time as Cleveland went 0-5 in their trips to the red zone.
Cary Williams had an interception and Ed Reed sealed the victory with an interception late in the 4th quarter. The corner backs are still having problems tackling well and being able to cover fast, athletic wide outs. Not sure what Jimmy Smith is looking at or for at times, but there always seems to be one or two times in a game where he looks lost.
Special Teams: B
Justin Tucker connected on a field goal from 43 yards and Jacoby Jones averaged 20 yards on his returns. Cleveland’s speedy returner Josh Cribbs averaged nearly 25 yards on his returns. The Ravens didn’t allow Cribbs to break off too many big runs, so that was a plus.
Cam Cameron tried to get Ray Rice going early, establishing the run and it worked until the Browns decided to shut it down. Luckily defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ unit didn’t allow anything more than five field goals from the Browns which kept the offense side of the ball in the game long enough to beat the Browns in the end.
Despite the win, the trend of inconsistent play and a disappearing offense at times continues on the road. The Ravens took advantage of a Browns team and head coach who were both equally inept and a defense which got rock solid every time Cleveland got into the red zone.
The Ravens, at least publicly, will be pleased to sit at 6-2, and atop the AFC North. With that comes the issues that plague both sides of the football, specifically on the defensive side. They allowed 116 yards rushing and still aren’t generating much of a pass rush.
The meat of the Ravens schedule now faces them as the weather gets colder and game plans suit how the Ravens want to play. But a lot of work still needs to be done and an identity of the defensive side of the ball needs to be established to battle the other top dogs of the AFC.